Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Look What We Had for Dinner!

An incoming couple at New College invited us for dinner last night and made home-made Chinese dumplings. They have been all over the world and their culinary skills reflect it!

Don't ask me what these are called ...... something with red bean mush cooked in a bamboo steamer. But they were so good! When I return from my upcoming travels, I'm heading to the Asian market to explore some of these exotic goodies!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Edinburgh: Doors Open Day 2009

This past weekend was Doors Open Day in Edinburgh, where many historical sites welcome guests into their buildings free of charge.

One of our first stops was the Drumsheugh Baths in Dean Village. It's quite close to where we live, and we were quite curious about the gym since their membership fee is quite high. While the facilities were not too impressive, I was intrigued by the trapeze above the pool. How fun would that have been when I was a kid???

On Saturday we also visited the Edinburgh Society of Musicians, the French Institute, Old College, the Talbot Rice Gallery, St. Cuthbert's Church, and St. John's Church.

St. Cuthbert's Church

Interior of St. Cuthbert's

St. John's

Interior of St. John's

More of St. John's

We also came across a wedding:

We actually heard the wedding before we saw it. The bride was serenaded by Scottish pipers and drummers. Too fun!

On Sunday afternoon we headed to Lauriston Castle with a group of friends:

This is what happens when all four husbands are taking pictures at the exact same time!

The castle is actually an Edwardian resident and has been left much the same as it was in the early 20th century.

This was the most intriguing thing about the house: their toilet!

Have you ever seen a toilet like this????

Sitting room filled with French furniture and bobbles. 
This room is Dutch inspired. 
And a fantastic library! Couldn't you just read in here all day????

Friday, September 25, 2009

Time for Tea!

Earlier this week I hosted a small tea for incoming New College wives. The affair was so enjoyable!   These ladies are a fascinating bunch. Some have traveled Africa, Asia, and beyond. Others are scientists, jet pilots, budding ethicists. I remembered to take a picture before the tea was in full swing .... and unfortunately the picture does not include my new coffee and tea silver service (a fantastic find at an antique market!).  Too bad I did not remember to take a picture of anyone at the tea. Oh my!


I have also joined a book club that is hosted by eteaket. This past Wednesday was our first meeting and we had the delight of hearing a reading by Sara Sheridan, a local Edinburgh author, from her new book The Secret Mandarin. And so fitting - the book contains the tales of Robert Fortune: a man on a mission to steal - none other - than tea plants.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Prague: Sans Commentary

At Hotel Neruda -- where we had large, yummy breakfasts every morning.

Crazy stairs at Hotel Neruda. These would never fly back home (or anywhere else in Western Europe!) Can you believe we had to climb these with huge suitcases???

I love this pic!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Scotland: Castles, Inverness, Loch Ness, & More

MBA and I just got back from a fun weekend in the Highlands. We rented a car with our friends Josh and Becky and had a fantastic time exploring some really great places in Scotland. Our first stop was at Elcho Castle in Perthshire.

Next we headed to Scone Palace, a privately owned and operated estate dating back to 1808 and home to the Mansfields.

The estate also maintains land that housed an early Christian church and were the grounds for many royal coronations, including Robert the Bruce in 1306 and Charles II in 1651. Also, the Stone of Destiny was at Scone Palace at one point. They fondly refer to it as the Stone of Scone.

The chapel where coronations took place. 

The grounds also included a maze, which stumped all of us. It was fun though! Becky found her way through the maze first. The goal was to get to the fountain in the center.


After exploring Scone Palace -- which also housed incredible French antiques (including lots and lots of Sevres china) -- we headed to the small township of Dunkeld.


St. Ninian's Garden - commemorating one of the first Christian missionaries to Scotland.

Ruins of Dunkeld - the choir portion of the cathedral is now a Church of Scotland church and the ruins are cared for by Historic Scotland.

The Cathedral is set on River Tay.

Josh and Becky checking out the Tay.

MBA on the Tay.

View of the Cathedral from the Riverbank.

Dunkeld is also home to lots of cute little shops and cafes. It's on my list of places to return to!

Next we headed to Blair Atholl Castle

It's a magnificent estate that was home to the Duke of Atholl until his death in 1996.

The estate had breathtaking views of the Highlands.

 Blair Castle also had a garden called Hercules Walk -- I didn't catch the history of that name.

MBA taking a rest in Hercules' garden.
Ruins of a Church on Blair's Land

Next we got on the road and headed north to Inverness where we spent the night.
MBA in Inverness on the River Ness, which enters the Moray Firth.

Saturday night we ate at a place called Hootananny that served Thai food and played traditional Scottish music. Strange combo but it worked!

Sunday morning we went to the Battle of Culloden battle grounds. 

This area was completely up MBA's alley as he studies a Scottish figure who was intimately involved in these struggles in 18th century Britain.


Next we headed  to Druid burial grounds from 2,000 BCish. Wow! That's a loooong time ago.

MBA and me in the center of the grave. 
Exploring the burial grounds.

We then headed to Fort George - one of the largest military fortifications in Europe.

It's still an active base; however, most of its troops are now deployed in Afghanistan.

Just making sure everyone's doing their job!

The base is also on the water! It was beautiful out there. I kept my eyes peeled for dolphins -- sadly, I saw none.

Because of its location on the water, it was so windy. Even for Scotland, the wind was crazy!

After Fort George, we headed south to Loch Ness in search of Nessie. 

We made a stop at Urqhart Castle along Loch Ness.

We then drove south, hit Fort William, and headed east through Glen Coe. I experienced one of the most beautiful drives through Scotland. It was rugged, raw, and untouched by mankind. 

I was beside myself with the beauty. It was unlike any landscape I had ever seen.

On our way back to Edinburgh, we stopped at Crianlarich Hotel for dinner. I had Chicken Balmoral, a Scottish specialty.

Chicken Balmoral is a chicken breast stuffed with haggis. I know there's a lot of haggis fans out there who will be thrilled to know I partook in the haggis festivities last night.

After dinner we drove along Loch Lomond to Glasgow and headed east toward Edinburgh. This exploration was such a fulfilling weekend. I'm already ready to go explore more of Scotland!

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